George Monbiot, 'Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning'

IssueDecember 2006 - January 2007
Review by Matt Sellwood

In Heat, George Monbiot attempts to construct what too few thinkers have attempted until now - a solution to climate change.

Refreshingly, he spends little time on the problem itself, declaring (correctly) that the debate on the science is over. Rather, the question is how we now deal with the greatest threat faced by humankind. Pointing out that current scientific estimates predict that the UK will need to cut its CO2 emissions by around 90% by 2030 - a far greater cut than planned for by the Labour government - Monbiot doesn't make life easy for himself, or for us.

Systematically, if rather dryly at times, he embarks on a quest throughout the carbon emitting sectors of UK life (that is to say, almost all of them), exploring how we might make those 90% cuts. In some areas, his conclusions are unsurprising, but in others, he has unearthed facts that are genuine news even to the most experienced climate campaigner. Particularly fascinating is his discussion of the need for a fully integrated coach network, making use of existing motorways and integrating itself with existing public transport networks. In areas such as this, he calculates that we can make our 90% cut using existing technology. In others, however, he is less optimistic - air travel, for example, is simply irredeemable.

It will be almost impossible to find an environmentalist who agrees with everything that Monbiot writes in Heat. Whether he is castigating wind micro-generators and carbon offsetting, or advocating hydrogen as a viable alternative fuel and nuclear power as a possible option, he leaves few avenues unexplored. It is precisely that lack of respect for the standard argument, however, that makes Heat such a fascinating book. It is a valuable addition to the climate change debate, and well worth a place in any collection.

Topics: Climate Change
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